Good fences make good neighbours, so the adage goes. But often more than a fence is needed to maintain good neighbourly relations! Rightly so as these irritations may seem trivial when weighed against the value of maintaining civil relations with those living in close proximity to you. The difficulty, however, arises when the actions of our neighbours, whether direct or indirect, make us suffer some kind of loss, whether this be a loss of the use and enjoyment of our property or a monetary loss.

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When you confront him, he flatly refuses to do anything about it, since they are, after all, trees he and his wife planted when they bought the property 30 years ago! He most certainly has the right to do on his property as he pleases, but what about my right to use and enjoy my property? Surely his enjoyment cannot be at the cost of someone else? Trees with lateral root systems are often a culprit in neighbourly disputes.

In the case Bingham v City Council of Johannesburg WLD , the municipality planted trees along the footpath for beautification purposes.

The problem was that they chose to plant oak trees, which have strong lateral root systems that drain the soil surrounding them. Due to the threat to the property the house the court ordered the municipality to remove the trees.

Vogel and Crewe were neighbours and Crewe was of the opinion that a tree planted about two metres from the wall, separating the two properties, was the cause of all the problems on his property. They took into account the benefits of protecting the tree, being its visual pleasure, shade, and the oxygen it produced, as opposed to the trouble it was causing Crewe. Crewe was not able to prove that the problem with the leaves in his swimming pool, gutters and sewage system was caused by the tree in question, and the court found that the wall separating the two properties could easily be repaired.

No drastic action, like removing the tree, was necessary and Crewe failed in his application. From the above it is clear that the court will only order the removal of a tree should the roots pose a real and immediate threat of damaging the property. They will not order the removal of overhanging branches for the shedding of leaves. Hopefully you will be able to resolve tree-related issues with your neighbour in a courteous way, and remember, you also have the right to enjoy your property. This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice.

No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Be careful what you write or say January 6, Starting a business in ?

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Neighbour’s overhanging branches encroach on property

However, her new neighbour has not followed suit and in the time he has been there he has failed to prune any of the trees on the border of his property which, when overgrown, encroach into her yard. She wants to resolve the situation because the leaves, twigs and branches falling into her yard now require her attention on a regular basis. Many people believe that as vegetation is a natural phenomenon they are not obliged to do anything to curb the growth. This is especially the case where overhanging branches intrude into the space of their neighbours. It is understandable that when such growth becomes excessive it can infringe on the reasonable usage of the land by the neighbour and become irritating. In the interest of staying good neighbours the overhanging branches will quickly be trimmed and the matter will go no further. It seems likely that the reader has already followed this approach as she mentions she feels she has been tolerant for long enough.


Trouble with the neighbours

Where do you stand as a property owner and what action can you take? As there are more and more of us, property owners need to be increasingly tolerant of the inevitable problems caused by the shrinking size of properties and the greater proximity of neighbours and their trees. Problems arise with overhanging branches and encroaching root systems that block gutters, sewage systems, shed leaves in the swimming pools and surrounding areas and also damage fixed structures. In terms of our private nuisance law, every property owner has a right to unimpeded enjoyment of his land. Clearly a conflict between these two rights is possible and when courts are presented with such disputes, a balance of the interests of the two parties is considered.




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